I don’t like to stereotype boys, but today, I will.
In fact, I’m going to make a huge sweeping generalization, and say this, boys with brothers play way differently than boys without brothers, and even boys spaced out, in years, from other boys in the family, especially if there is a sister or two, in between.
We have a lot of boys is our neighborhood, which has been one of the biggest blessings of moving to this house. However, at times, it can also be a curse. Because these boys never stop fighting. They can’t get any game started in less than ten minutes, since each new endeavour involves lengthy arguments about who is in charge, what the teams will be, what the rules will be, with sometimes, them not even getting past the issue of what to play. (I blame helicopter parenting and too many organized activities, but that’s a post for another day.)
Then, once the game begins, there is usually even more fighting, mean words tossed around, and sore losers, born. Sometimes, they even take a swipe at one another, and inevitably, there are tears.
But, in my opinion, here’s where brothers, versus the brotherless, differ.
What causes one to go home, causes another to laugh hysterically. What causes one to cry, causes another to seek revenge. What causes one to cry foul, causes another to become more aggressive in his tactics. What causes one to call names, causes another to call names until the other goes home crying. What causes one to think he is not liked, is forgotten by the other by dinner time. What causes one to quit the game, causes the other to declare himself the winner (and proudly).
This was confirmed, for me, even further today, when I watched a game play out between six kids, three of whom who had brothers (two were mine) and were on the same team. On the other team, one of the boys, with a way younger brother, and sister in between, left before the game even started. Water fight? No thank you. The other boy without a brother, left-mid-game, crying foul. This did not stop the team of boys who have brothers, from vigorously defending their title against the last remaining boy (who also has a large gap between brothers, and a sister in between). There was no mercy, even though it was three against one. At one point, the team composed of brothers, even turned on each other.
The lone opponent met their water guns not with fury, but with pleas for mercy, complaining they were being mean. A charge which was not met with any understanding from the brother team, who protested, “We’re having a water fight!” As in duh, they don’t call it a fight for nothing, and second place is first loser, so take that.
Then, Mr. Softee showed up and any game that was going on, ceased to exist. Mr. Softee is that important.Within a half hour, everyone returned, tearing up my garage, looking for chairs so they could practice the future art of being old men in lawn chairs, circled up in the driveway.
These boy dynamics are interesting to watch, in an annoying sort of way. But, honestly, when the neighborhood boys, mine included, aren’t driving me crazy with all their fighting and whining (and man, can they whine), I am loving all their play!
Because whether it be a brother boy or brotherless boy, they all benefit from this great and, unfortunately, dwindling art, of unsupervised, outdoor play. All the rest is just minor details for them to work out. And by working it out they are turning each other into future leaders, negotiators, workers, problem solvers, rabble rousers, decision makers, and citizens of the world.
God help us all!